Motherhood

Your Guide to Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms

Team Peanutabout 1 month ago6 min read

Before we dive in: If you are currently struggling to cope with postpartum anxiety symptoms, know that there is help available.

Reach out to someone—a partner, friend, family member, or care line. Postpartum Support International has a dedicated helpline that will offer you support and link you to resources in your area.

Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms

Let’s be real. Being a new mama is stressful.

You’re navigating a lot of new tasks that you’ve never had to perform before.

You’re likely operating on less sleep than you’re used to. And your body has been through one heck of a journey.

Add to this the hormonal shifts that come with the postpartum period, and it’s not hard to see where feelings of anxiety may come from (head here for more on the fourth trimester).

While new mamahood generally comes with added stress, in some cases, feelings of overwhelm can have a debilitating effect on your health and wellbeing.

And while we are getting slightly better at having the conversation about postpartum depression, we still have a long way to go when it comes to postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum anxiety symptoms can accompany postpartum depression or happen on their own.

If this feels like what you are experiencing, know that there is help available.

You haven’t done anything wrong. You don’t have to struggle through this alone.

In this article: 📝

  • Postpartum anxiety
  • Can post-pregnancy hormones cause anxiety?
  • How long does anxiety last after having a baby?
  • Symptoms of postpartum anxiety
  • Treatment for postpartum anxiety

Postpartum anxiety

The research is young, so it’s hard to figure out the exact prevalence of anxiety disorders in the postpartum period.

While it appears to occur in about 10% of postpartum women, estimates could place that figure as high as 25%.

Yep, it’s more than time we started talking about this.

(Peanut has dedicated a safe space for this exact purpose. If you are struggling with postpartum anxiety symptoms or any other mental health issues related to motherhood, please join us.)

So let’s get the conversation going. First things first, what causes postpartum anxiety—and how long can you expect it to last?

Can post-pregnancy hormones cause anxiety?

Yes, hormones can impact your postpartum mental health.

After your baby is born, your body does quite a hormone reshuffle.

Here’s a quick glance at the key players in the postpartum hormone dance:

  • Progesterone and estrogen decrease very soon after you give birth. Both hormones affect your mood and, as this study shows us, their retreat from your body can have a tremendous impact on your mood.
  • Oxytocin is the hormone that helps you feel all the happy feels during delivery. It surges during birth but starts to decrease soon after.
  • Prolactin. You may have heard of this hormone in relation to breast milk production. One of the interesting things about it is that it appears to have a connection to stress regulation and can be linked to feelings of anxiety.

Added to this, up to 23% of new mamas experience thyroid dysfunction postpartum.

Thyroid dysfunction can affect your mood and lead to both depression and anxiety.

(If you suspect that you have a thyroid issue, chat with your healthcare provider so that they can assess what treatment is appropriate for you.)

How long does anxiety last after having a baby?

Everyone’s experience is so different.

The severity of your postpartum anxiety and how long it lasts is specific to your unique situation.

This shift in your body’s hormonal makeup, coupled with the new challenges of mamahood, can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression—commonly known as the “baby blues”.

(And just because they have this cute name, that doesn’t diminish how big the experience can be. You really don’t have to struggle through this alone or write it off as being par for the mamahood course. It really helps to connect.)

In many cases, hormonal shifts settle themselves within a week or two.

If they don’t, or they get worse, you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety disorder or postpartum depression.

If this is what you are going through, the feelings may last until you find the right treatment.

This is important: mental health disorders, like postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety disorder, require treatment.

Reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss options. And if that feels like too much, reach out to a loved one or your Peanut community.

This could be the first step to getting the help you need.

Symptoms of postpartum anxiety

If you have a family history of anxiety disorder, or you have struggled with depression and anxiety before, you are more at risk of developing postpartum anxiety disorder.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of postpartum anxiety:

  • Feeling constantly worried
  • Having a sense that something terrible is about to happen
  • Feeling as though you can’t relax
  • Experiencing your thoughts traveling too fast for you to keep up with
  • Trouble sitting still
  • Insomnia
  • Symptoms of OCD
  • Hot flashes
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or other digestive issues

These symptoms may start in pregnancy and continue into the postpartum period, or may only kick in once you’ve given birth.

Another form of postpartum anxiety is postpartum panic disorder, where you may experience panic attacks. Signs of panic attacks include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Feelings of claustrophobia
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Heart palpitations

Panic attacks typically come in waves. Sometimes just knowing that they have an end can be useful.

Treatment for postpartum anxiety

There are treatments available.

Psychotherapy really helps some mamas, as do certain oral medications.

Some anxiety medicines, such as Zoloft, are considered safe to take while breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor about what medications might be suitable for you.

Here are some other strategies that can help:

  • Reach out to others who might be going through the same thing—a support group, a fellow mama, a friend.
  • Practice meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises.
  • Try the 3-3-3 rule. If you feel overwhelmed, look around and name three things that you can see. Then identify three things that you can hear. And then three things that you can touch. This helps ground you in your environment.
  • Do some light exercise. Of course, this can be challenging with a newborn, but do what you can.
  • Try journaling.

The bottom line? You don’t have to struggle through postpartum anxiety symptoms alone.

Whatever you are going through, there is help available.

Sometimes it’s just about making that very first connection.

Good luck, mama. ❤️

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All About Postpartum Psychosis
How My Experience With Postpartum Depression Changed My Life
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10 Ideas for a Nutritious Postpartum Diet
A Guide to the Best Types of Postpartum Massage
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What are the Possible Postpartum Complications?
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